Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Introducing Roymont

Let’s talk about Roymont.

This is a shitty drawing, but I've yet to make a satisfactory one and I wanted something for the thumbnail.

Roymont is the city that started bubbling in my head when I started reading 100 Years of Solitude about a year and a half ago (I didn’t finish it) and thought, how much of this could I shovel into Vornheim? It feels as musty and hopeful and lyrical as East of Eden. It’s an Impressionist painting of an opium dream. Roymonters revel like Hemingway and Wilde’s impossible lovechild. Jane Austen is there too, but she’s off somewhere with Virginia Woolf, who’s showing her beautiful things she never thought imaginable. And everyone dresses like it’s 1914 (because it is) and gets dappered up to cavort under the many-coloured gas lamps and they take their cane-swords because you never know, we might go out to a Dungeon tonight.

Roymont is my alternative-history literary fanfiction fantasy heartbreaker. And you're invited.

It’s a city at the center of the world. It’s a growing city with room to spread, and there are people there and opportunities unlike anywhere else. No one was born here, everyone just arrived. Artists and labourers migrate from Europe on the scent of employment and change, dodging whispers of a coming War. Trains come in along on great iron rails, bearing travellers and goods. The harbour is crammed with too many boats. Wandering the Docks District at sunset in summer one can smell frying fish and butter and enjoy a moment’s calm before the whole city hits the streets further up the island, crowding the taverns by the wharf and packing the dancing alleys of Little Mediterranea. No street is signed in less than four languages, and never the same ones from one corner to the next. During the day, boats and factories puff out great plumes of steam as early as the sun will rise. Afternoon is the children’s time, when the little brats take to their streets with crafty windup toys and yo-yos and bicycles and gum, and steal from convenience store and play too close to the canal, and the adults go in for a cup of coffee or a nap. At least in summer.

The winters are terrible. Ice covers the street and the streetcars get stuck in snowdrifts. Coats of the thickest down are drawn tight and worn out too soon, and the cold persists malevolently into April. Vagrants are found frozen under awnings on January mornings, and not even the warmest hearth can keep the chilling drafts from pecking at the nose and cracking the lips. The midday sun reflects blindingly off the snow and ice before setting all too quickly before the children even get out of school. In the afternoons, Irish and French and English and Portugese and Spaniards and Americans and Turks and Morrocans and Greeks and Jews and Poles and Russians and Chinese all sit at home asking in their own language, what devil possessed them to come all the way here to this hellish rock on the other side of the world. And in their nostalgia they write home but the ships are frozen in the port.

And then comes the Spring with its yellow mornings and crisp cyan afternoons, and the coffeehouses open their terraces and they remember.

Roymont is a city of impossible things. The Alchemical Academy rests on a hill near the Roman District. It is one of the last of its kind, and the only one still producing important findings. Strange pidgin languages are born and die daily, blending together to form the ever-changing creole simply called Vernacular. The variety of the city makes it impossible to govern effectively - though within the marble halls of the Roman District, they try – and in any case the tax dollars come in and the Latin-speaking aristocrats spend them frivolously through corruption channels too contrived to prove, funnel their funds to sneaky businessmen, sinister cults and other causes esoteric and clandestine. A Spaniard once witnessed one of Roymont’s famous autumn sunsets and was struck with a sudden madness that led him directly to lock himself in his apartment. There he is reputed to have spent a month writing three novels and, finding them all unsatisfactory, immolated the manuscripts and then himself. (This act has inspired a highly successful new genre of literature attempting to emulate the man’s frenzy.) East of the Kingsmount a schtetl within the city is home to a community of Jewish mystics who daily discover new spell formulae in their holy texts. Some homewrecking Dandy has enchanted his name and face as to make them unrememberable and is now making his rounds of the rich and powerful. The conflict of numerous obscure laws has made dueling a legal and popular pastime - although only in certain neighbourhoods.  And for reasons still unexplained, the dodgy Cedar Sap Inn remains a locus for unlikely happenstance.

America is a large continent and much remains unexplored. Only a few hours from Roymont the farmland stops and who know what you’ll find if you wander off the roads. There are people in the city who will pay handsomely to find out. Under the city itself is a great network of tunnels and chambers that no one remembers building. They are peopled with strange and terrible creatures, and every so often a man with pointed ears will emerge, or else a woman with green skin, or a small bearded fellow with a nose for gold. Most of these tunnels are also unexplored.

I’m getting sleepy and I’ve more to say about this city than is advisable for a single post. The point is this: I’m very fond of Roymont. A few times I’ve toyed with the idea of setting a game there, but always balked, for precious reasons: The city’s not fleshed out enough; I haven’t finished polishing the house rules; I need to get the tone just so… In short, it’s just not ready.


In no more than two weeks’ time (there’s my hard deadline) I will be opening Roymont to FLAILSNAILS and open gaming and pick-up games and all that G+ muckery. I won’t be ready, beyond a small handful of random tables that might be fully stocked. I will be making heavy use my Bullshit Tables, and probably significant chunks of Vornheim. Participants in the first few sessions will play a large role in fleshing out the city as neighbourhoods pop into existence in hurried answer to questions I wasn’t expecting. My bad ideas and pretensions to my “milieu” will be ripped apart by PCs too strong-willed for my failings. It’s a Darwinian approach to world-building.

Come on, you bastards, kill my darlings.

This guy lives there. How quickly will you kill him?

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